Home. What an odd concept, right?
After all, how do you define home – is it the place where you’re born? Is it the country your parents hail from? Is the place where you’ve spent the largest number of cumulative years? The geographic location tied to your earliest memories?
Can I tell where your home is by looking at you? Is it tied to the colour of your passport? Maybe it’s reflected in the language or dialect that you speak, the distinct features of your face, or perhaps in the texture of your hair.
For me, home is many things and sometimes nothing at all. It ebbs and flows and takes on so many different forms that it’s hard to say where exactly it starts and where it ends. Sometimes I think it’s the house in which I first learned to scale a staircase, using nothing but my behind, as confirmed by embarrassing baby photos numbered 1 through infinity.
Home is where every year without fail, my parents threw me the world’s best birthday parties complete with all my favourite games (pass the parcel and musical chairs, in case you were wondering), a chocolate cake I didn’t care too much for and highly coveted presents.
Home is where my mother filled our house with animals (dogs, cats, rabbits, turtles) and taught us to love and care for them. Honey, Maggie, Rocky, Mary, Whiskey, Duchess and Rosie are among many more that have since passed on but remain etched in my memory.
Home is where I learned to fail at riding a bike year after year. It’s where my brother and I spent hours on end splashing around the pool in our compound each summer. It’s also where I waited so eagerly for my first day of school my parents feared I might not return.
It’s where I discovered my first culinary pleasures at the hands of my mother’s exemplary cooking (although at time I believed all moms were great cooks). It’s where trips to pick up tikka and a rental VHS from the video store with my dad were the highlight of my week.
Home is the place that witnessed clumsy falls and scraped knees, my melodramatic childhood fits, uncontrollable hysterical laughter playing the unnamed and nonsensical game where my brother and I took turns hiding miscellaneous items under bed covers.
Home is where I made friends from all corners of the world at my first school. It’s where I discovered my insatiable love for books, earning the nickname of “Matilda” much to my cousins’ delight.
It’s where I took ballet, painted and sketched after school, and starred and sang in many a musical production. It’s where I discovered that I didn’t quite loathe anything more than I did numbers and chemical formulae.
It’s also where I was bullied mercilessly for being different. Where I struggled with weight and body image, where I learned that sometimes people treat you different because of your culture and socio-economic status.
Home is where I met the people that have become my second family, my best friends and closest confidants. A diverse and incredible group of women, each and every one of them is smart, talented and stunningly beautiful, inside and out.
Home is where I fell in love for the first time. It’s where long nights spent chatting away on instant messenger were filled with excitement and jitters. Home is also where I had my first heartbreak, and undoubtedly broke hearts of my own. I hope someday, that home will be the place I fall in love for the last time.
Home is where I know the roads well enough to be able to give directions. It’s where I can predict weekend traffic patterns, and recommend a vegan-friendly restaurant (or 20). It’s where the waiters at my favourite eateries jokingly refer to me as “no fish sauce”.
Home is where I built a name for myself in my professional field. It’s where I learned the value of a good work ethic, and the freedom that comes with financial independence.
But home is also where my passions flourished – from running, to fitness to food and writing, for so long home has been the incubator for my many labours of love.
So how does one go about leaving home behind? How do you say goodbye?
I’ve thought long and hard about this moment, it’s arrival imminent yet ultimately unknown, for a long time, and I’m not sure I have the right answer, but what I’ve come to realise is this.
While home may typically be linked to a single geographic location – it is so much more than just a dot on the map. It is the sights, the smells, the sounds. It’s that feeling of pure and utter comfort and familiarity, felt within minutes of stepping into the airport after even the briefest of trips away. It’s the hearts and souls of the people you love so dearly and it’s the quirky eccentricities that you love to complain about. No matter where you go, home will always be embedded deep within you, regardless of how much time and distance comes in between.
So with that in mind, I suppose the answer to my question is that you don’t ever really say goodbye – after all, how do you bid a part of your own being farewell?
Instead of saying goodbye, I’d like to give gratitude.
Thank you for being the perfect little Island to grow up on. Thank you for giving my parents bright futures and a fresh start. Thank you for being so conveniently small at times and frustratingly crowded at others. Thank you for giving me a sense of community and a place to belong, even when I thought I didn’t. This may be the end of our time together for now, but I promise I’ll take you with me wherever I go.
Until next time, my beautiful beloved Bahrain.